CINCINNATI — The Kroger Co. said Monday it will pilot the delivery of groceries by autonomous drones this spring in Centerville, Ohio.
“Kroger’s new drone delivery pilot is part of the evolution of our rapidly growing and innovative e-commerce business – which includes pickup, delivery, and ship and reached more than $10 billion in sales in 2020,” said Kroger’s Jody Kalmbach, group vice president of product experience. “The pilot reinforces the importance of flexibility and immediacy to customers, powered by modern, cost-effective, and efficient last-mile solutions. We’re excited to test drone delivery and gain insights that will inform expansion plans as well as future customer solutions.”
The pilot program is being conducted with Drone Express, a division of TELEGRID Technologies Inc. Drone Express will commence test flights this week near the Kroger Marketplace in Centerville, Ohio (1095 South Main Street). The flights will be managed by licensed Drone Express pilots from an on-site trailer with additional off-site monitoring. Customer deliveries are scheduled to begin later this spring, and a second pilot is scheduled to launch this summer at a Ralphs store in California.
Drone Express said its technology allows package delivery to the location of a customer’s smartphone not only to a street address, allowing customers to have picnic supplies delivered to a park or condiments to a backyard cookout.
Kroger is designing bundled product offerings ideal for meeting customer needs within the current weight limits for drone delivery, which is about five pounds. As an illustration, Kroger will offer a baby care bundle with wipes and formula, a child wellness bundle with over-the-counter medications and fluids, and a S’mores bundle with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. Using Kroger.com/DroneDelivery, customers can place orders and have eligible orders delivered within as little as 15 minutes.
“Autonomous drones have unlimited potential to improve everyday life, and our technology opens the way to safe, secure, environmentally friendly deliveries for Kroger customers,” said Beth Flippo, Chief Technology Officer, TELEGRID. “The possibilities for customers are endless – we can enable Kroger customers to send chicken soup to a sick friend or get fast delivery of olive oil if they run out while cooking dinner.”
Drone Express recently established a facility in the southwest Ohio community of Monroe as a hub for manufacturing, testing, and piloting of autonomous drones for commercial package delivery. Centerville, where the pilot program will launch, is located about 20 miles northeast of Monroe, on the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio.
“The launch of the pilot in Centerville is the culmination of months of meticulous research and development by Kroger and Drone Express to better serve and meet the needs of our customers,” said Ethan Grob, Kroger’s director of last mile strategy and product. “We look forward to progressing from test flights to customer deliveries this spring, introducing one more way for our customers to experience Kroger.”